Since I’ve been laid off from my “8-5 p.m.” job, my morning routine now includes a cup of coffee and the news. (Aside of course, from caring for my almost 6 month old son.) In this brief hour of my morning, I’m informed of world issues, the upcoming weather, the latest in sporting events, and what the morning commute looks like for the working class of Denver.
Then I turn off the T.V.
And go about my day.
Did the news stories really mean anything? How did they affect my daily life?
I have no desire to be melodramatic or overly sensitive. But, as a white American, I’m certainly quite privileged. Maybe even a bit snobbish upon occasion. The opportunities that exist at my fingertips don’t quite stretch to each individual across the globe.
Which is why I think I’m taking things for granted.
I take for granted that I can put my son in a stroller and go for a jog in my neighborhood. My phone tracks my mileage. My headphones provide entertainment on the go. I feel safe, unmolested, and even welcomed. This experience is completely foreign to many women in far off places. They are beaten down, unrecognized, ignored. Just because they aren’t my neighbors physically doesn’t mean I am no less obligated to do something about their oppression.
I take for granted my cup of coffee. It’s more than a mug of black brew. I own a Keurig, flavored syrup, and a milk whisk. And if that doesn’t satisfy some days, I venture to my local Starbuck’s where my drink is crafted to perfection by the friendly baristas behind the counter. This is a simple pleasure of my life. I enjoy it. But when the espresso shot is burned or the milk not quite to temperature or the extra caramel isn’t added, the pleasure morphs into an expectation. Then the expectation becomes a demand. And the demand turns me into a petulant child. Most of the world survives on less than a dollar a day. Compassion International’s website explodes with the pictures of children who need sponsership for less than the cost of my Starbuck’s budget per month. Maybe if I was more thankful for my cup of coffee, that thankfulness would overflow into generosity towards others.
I take for granted my car. Sure, it’s a little dented, and has lots of miles on it. But it runs and it’s mine. I’m one of the privileged people in the world who owns a vehicle. Just that fact alone should make me stop and be grateful. However, the car ads I see entice me to believe that if I just owned the newest model, I’d be much happier. In fact, one commercial goes so far as to play sad music for the man who owns the older model of a car, and then switch to a happier tune when the camera swings over to the man who owns the shiny new red truck. Sure, it evokes some feelings of jealousy in me. Yet feet, bicycles, buses, trams, subways–all provide alternate transportation in other areas of our globe. My car is great. I’m just trying not to be a brat about it every time I put the key in the ignition.
I take for granted my food. I was raised to give thanks before every meal, and I love that practice. Taking two seconds to be silent or pray before ingesting a meal gives gratefulness its rightful place. It’s more than just the food on our tables, though. For me, I take for granted all the restaurant choices in my area. I can have sushi, Mexican, Italian, burgers, Belgian, or German all within a 3 – 5 mile radius. This plethora is almost absurd. Beans and rice are the staples in Central American countries, and fish and rice the staples in the Far East. These items are served at every meal. Sometimes there is only one meal a day, or maybe two. I get three meals a day–plus snacks. I have so much food that I have to count my calories so I don’t overeat. The imbalance of this really disturbs me. So much of the world either eats basic foods or doesn’t eat at all. I don’t have any answers to the problems of world hunger, but I do know that it bothers me. It pushes me to eat less and be less wasteful. I’m not trying to promote feeling guilty about the American way of eating. I’m asking for honesty and communication and a sense of awareness.
I take for granted my ethnicity. I’m white. My family history extends to Germany, England, and Scotland. With the color of my skin comes great privilege and expectation. I am afforded job opportunities, education, and courtesy. No one really takes a second glance at me. I blend in easily. My job, my church, my school, my neighborhood—all these are filled with the majority of people who look like me. This bothers me. When I was little, my dad was a pastor of a church for military families in Germany. I was friends with people from all backgrounds and races. I never noticed the difference. I loved them. They loved me. We were family. Now that I’m older, I recognize that the issues of race and cultures are hot topics in my country. I have no easy answers to any of these problems. What I do know is this: I’m tired of being privileged without responsibility. Because my race has a lot more power than others, I realize that I am bound to help those who need it. If my voice can be lent to those who have no voice, then I’m ready to shout it out. I want my son to grow up in a diverse world. I want him to see people as his friends and fellow humans, not a separate and bad because they look different from him.
In conclusion, I take for granted that I’ve just typed this post on my iPad with my Bluetooth keyboard. I take for granted that my husband is keeping my son right now so that I can have some alone time. I take for granted that I can read and write. I take for granted that I have clean water (triple filtered actually, from Starbuck’s.) I take for granted that I’m healthy and strong. I take for granted that the sun rose today. I take for granted that God is good and that He is active in the world.
This has to end.
If you’ll pardon me, I’ve got some thanksgiving to do.